This morning, the NHL announced that the salary cap for the 2015-16 season will be $71.4 million; about $2.4 million higher than this past season. This is decent news for the Blackhawks because they need the cap to go up as much as possible if they want to retain players like Saad and Kruger, among others, for next season. Had the cap been any lower than $71 million for this upcoming season, it would have been a big disappointment for many teams like the Hawks.
What the announcement of next season’s cap means is that trades and other moves will begin to take place, and in a hurry. Odds are that not much will happen prior to Wednesday night’s NHL Awards Show in Las Vegas, but who knows? One thing is for sure, and that is that we are bound to see a flurry of trades before the start of the NHL Draft on Friday.
With regards to the Blackhawks, this implies that a big move or two could come between now and Friday. The Blackhawks traded away a number of draft pick for this year’s draft back at the trade deadline a few months ago, and odds are that they’ll be looking to acquire some picks heading into the draft of Friday. To get those picks, they will most likely be looking to dump at least one big salary.
Patrick Sharp’s name has come up more than just about any player in hockey in recent weeks when discussing possible trades. He is set to make $5.9 million per year over the next two seasons. It’s no secret that the Hawks will be looking to move Sharp in return for some high picks and a prospect, but whether or not they can strike a deal with a team over the next 72 hours remains to be seen. I don’t think any of us Hawks fans want to see Sharp go, but it is a move that has to be done. Brandon Saad is a huge part of this team’s future, and really the only way to give him a contract that he deserves is by moving a player with a big annual salary like Sharp.
Other candidates to be traded out of Chicago are Bryan Bickell, and possibly even (but not likely) Brent Seabrook and/or Corey Crawford. All three players have big annual salaries and would bring a lot back to the Hawks if traded. Odds are that both Seabrook and Crawford go nowhere, but their names have been mentioned in trade rumors.
The ideal scenario would be if Stan Bowman could find a buyer for Bryan Bickell. Bickell is set to make $4.5 million annually for the next two years, which is way too much money. Why Bowman ever inked Bickell to such a deal, I don’t know. It was probably a knee-jerk reaction to the way Bickell performed over the course of the 2013 playoffs. Trading away Bickell, who is definitely replaceable from within the organization, would free up a lot of cap space and go a long way in re-signing Saad and Kruger first and foremost. If this deal is made, it by no means implies that Sharp won’t be traded. If I had to bet on this, I’d say Sharp is dealt before any other Hawk. Being able to dump Bickell’s salary would just be a bonus to Stan Bowman.
So in summary, here’s what to look for in the next few days:
- Patrick Sharp being traded away, and probably to an Eastern Conference team, in exchange for a first round pick in this year’s draft and a good prospect or two.
- Maybe even a Bryan Bickell trade if Bowman can work magic. Bickell would likely bring in a couple 2nd-4th round draft picks and nothing more, especially if another team agrees to take on the majority of his contract.
- We may see the names Seabrook and Crawford float around in the rumor mill, but I wouldn’t expect either one to go anywhere.
- Once Sharp and anyone else are dealt, extensions for Brandon Saad and Marcus Kruger should follow shortly thereafter.